sunnuntai 8. joulukuuta 2013

What is my own diversity footprint?

“Environmental footprint” has become a popular concept, familiar to most of us today. People acknowledge the idea of personal responsibility in making the world a better place to live – or at least not making it worse – for our generation and the ones to come. The environmental footprint refers to the use of natural resources: the smaller the footprint is, the better.

How about adopting the concept of footprint in diversity management – a diversity footprint? It would illustrate the impact in making the world, a community, a work place, better for every individual. It would reflect everything we do to support people different from ourselves, and to enhance diversity and inclusion. The bigger the footprint is, the better we are doing.

Research indicates that practical and long-lasting personal contacts with diverse people are the key to tolerance, respect, inclusion and mutual dignity. Tolerating differences, and avoiding and addressing discrimination, is just the beginning, the base line. We should go far beyond our comfort zone and learn to live with ambiguity, questioning our own values and norms. It takes personal investment to learn new ways of thinking and feeling, to develop new attitudes.

It’s a common misconception that as long as our outward behavior is politically correct, the inner thoughts are invisible. In reality, thoughts send subtle micro messages through which our true nature is revealed. Moreover, oftentimes thoughts eventually lead to words and actions. They always make a mark. So does “inaction” (forgetting the other person’s name, accomplishments, or even her/his existence); inaction speaks louder than we think.

People who differ from the norm, usually develop great sensitivity for weak signals and hidden messages in other people’s behaviors, for managers’ biases and organizational dynamics. Therefore, to win the trust of everyone, there is a need for special effort and self-critical alertness to fight ignorance. There also is a need for courage to openly address inappropriate behavior, biases, and exclusion. These are the elements that make the footprint.

perjantai 1. marraskuuta 2013

Diversity is good for people and good for business - when well managed

Today’s economy calls for diverse human resources, significantly more so than most organizations are used to managing. It’s not simply a matter of workforce, it’s a question of gaining competitive edge, strategic leadership of the best available talent and growth potential.

Inclusive diversity introduces rich perspectives and multiple approaches: the more diverse viewpoints are considered in the planning process, the better the organization is prepared for changes and threats in the business environment.  When fully empowered, diverse staff also offers a wealth of contact points to the external world. Diversity serves as a critical safeguard in helping the company observe weak signals, foresee market changes, and respond to them in innovative ways.  

Balanced diversity with full inclusion is also an essential element of corporate social responsibility and external image - a business imperative from many angles. It’s an issue of credibility that has an impact on staff recruitment and retention, as well as customer trust. If not empowered, the talent is not just wasted, but it becomes a ticking bomb that may ultimately carry a high price tag: increasing turnover, absenteeism, lack of engagement, quality problems, security hazards, and productivity losses.

Although diversity tends to enrich the organization, it’s not always simple. Experience shows that, unless wisely managed, staff diversity may increase tension, cliques, and unhealthy competition. As long as imbalance exist between majorities and minorities, management must pay special attention to leveling the playing field - not only by addressing and eliminating discrimination but also by proactively ensuring equal opportunities for growth, visibility, and recognition. The most critical instrument in this is a Diversity Strategy that clarifies the business case, sets the standards and rules, and inspires everyone to take action. Yet, regardless of excellent strategies, people don’t always do what is right or strategically wise, but rather what is beneficial to them. Therefore, diversity management must be built in every manager’s performance appraisal criteria.

Diversity cannot be effectively managed by homogeneous management, the communication and credibility gaps are too many and too wide. Diverse staff must have highly regarded role models they can identify with. If a company wants to take full advantage of diversity, this has to be integrated across the organizational hierarchies and operational functions, up to line managers, top management, and the board.  

keskiviikko 16. lokakuuta 2013

Diversity challenges of staff surveys

In a stable environment, staff surveys can be useful instruments for Human Resources Management. They provide clear-cut data, suitable for quantitative analysis to be repeated year after year.

In a rapidly changing world and multicultural environments, however, things are too complex for the traditional approach. Employees present countless cultural and ethnic backgrounds, worldviews, and value systems. Their personal definitions of workplace norms differ widely. The capacity of staff surveys to account for these background factors is limited.

When the company and survey languages are different from one’s own native language, the validity of the assessment weakens significantly. Even the most fluent language skills may hide ambiguous and conflicting thinking structures, concepts of right and wrong, good or bad, too much and too little.

Further, background cultures largely define people’s perceptions of their roles, rights, and opportunities to participate and influence. People silently ask: Do I really count? Are my views valuable? Is my answer right or wrong? Is it appropriate to be critical? What is the agenda behind this survey? Will my responses remain confidential? What will be their consequences?

Technology-driven assessment and communication pose the risk of face-to-face communication being pushed aside. Without a true dialogue, cultural value systems and individual motivations behind the responses remain unknown. Consequently, the interpretations of the findings may be biased and driven by false assumptions.

While staff surveys do encourage people to express their views on current status of issues, they tend to ignore culture-sensitive ideals and expectations. It takes much more personal involvement and true leadership from managers and HR experts to reach the weak signals reflecting people’s feelings, motivation levels, and commitment.

lauantai 1. kesäkuuta 2013


Welcome to Axianet Oy website. In Axianet, we focus on enhancing diversity and multi-cultural management, and promoting equal opportunities in the work life. On these pages, you will find articles on these topics, as well as a monthly blog. Gradually, we will also post links and ideas for implementation.

This first posting is a video about a Peacock in the Land of Penguins, available on Youtube. It provides food for thought on human diversity and pressures for similarity. I hope that it will generate useful insights in your mind.